Syria officially has 14 governorates, but the following conceptual division used to make more sense for travellers:
Aleppo, one of the oldest cities in the world, as well as the Dead Cities, 700 abandoned settlements in the northwest of the country
A volcanic plateau in the southwest of Syria, also includes the capital Damascus and its sphere of influence
The Orontes Valley, home to the towns of Hama and Homs
|Syrian Coast and Mountains|
Green and fertile, relatively Christian, somewhat liberal, and dominated by Phoenician and Crusader history
A vast empty desert with the oasis of Palmyra, as well the basin of the Euphrates, which is historically associated with the Assyrian and Babylonian history
Occupied by Israel in 1967 and formally annexed in 1981, the Golan Heights is claimed by Syria. The annexation is not recognized by the United Nations. A small area of land centred on Quneitra was transferred back to Syria in 1974. This deserted town, kept in its ruined state as monument to the war (or as propaganda depending on your perspective) used to be able to be visited with permission from the Ministry of Interior (open 08:00-14:00, Su-Th, authorisation requires your passport and took around 30 min).
- Damascus — the capital claimed to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world
- Aleppo — a large souk and ancient citadel with great views
- Deir-az-Zur — a desert town on the Euphrates River bank
- Hama — waterwheels
- Homs — an ancient city by the Orontes river, amazing green mountains in Spring
- Latakia — a major port city, Saladin's Castle, Fronloq Forests and Al Samra Beach near Kasab
- Tartous — a historical port city and historical small island called Arwad
- Apamea — a former Roman city which once housed about half a million people. Apamea was hit by an earthquake in the 12th century and much of it was destroyed but it still boasts a long street lined with columns, some of which have twisted fluting.
- Bosra — a Roman city in southern Syria close to the Jordan frontier noted for the use of black basalt stones and its well preserved theatre
- Crac des Chevaliers — the archetypal Crusader castle, magnificently preserved and not to be missed
- Dead Cities — A series of towns which once formed part of Antioch. They have long since been abandoned but make an interesting stop for tourists. Al Bara boasts pyramidal tombs and formerly grand archways set on modern farm land. Serjilla is another famous dead city
- Der Mar Musa — not a tourist site, but an active Christian monastery actively promoting Islamic/Christian dialogue. Welcomes Christians and followers of other religious traditions. It is 80 km north of Damascus.
- Palmyra — formerly held the once-magnificent ruins of a Roman city, in the middle of the desert. Once considered the main attraction in Syria, no longer a viable destination as the UNESCO-listed heritage site was destroyed by Daesh extremists in 2015.
- Saladin's Castle — a quiet gem in a valley with pine trees about 37 km inland from Latakia
- Salamieh — Salamiyah is an ancient city which was first known during Babylonian times in 3500 BC; contain Shmemis castle, Greek temple of Zeus, The old Hammam,the old Walls,Remains of Roman canals